Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will sign a bill fining social media companies a whopping $250,000 a day if they continue to censor elected politicians.
The legislation, which was approved by the Florida legislature but still requires sign-off from the governor, will still allow social media such as Facebook and Twitter to impose suspensions of up to 14 days, but prevent them from permanently deleting or suspending accounts of political candidates. Platforms will also be allowed to remove posts if they consider them a violation of their terms of service.
The bill is principally a reaction to moves by Facebook and Twitter to remove former President Donald Trump, a close ally of DeSantis, from their platforms over his role in the January 6th assault on the Capitol. Should Trump run again in 2024, the issue may rise to a head given that his official residence is now in the state of Florida.
Democrats have criticized the bill over concerns it will make it more difficult for their allies in Silicon Valley to interfere in future elections. Meanwhile, Republicans have framed the issue as a matter of protecting First Amendment rights.
“This bill is not about President Trump,” said Republican state Rep. John Snyder this week. “This bill is about the 22 million Floridians and their First Amendment rights.”
Meanwhile Net Choice, a trade lobbying group for internet companies, testified against the bill during its debate by saying it was in itself a violation of the First Amendment and the rights of private entities.
“The First Amendment makes clear that government may not regulate the speech of private individuals or businesses. This includes government action that compels speech by forcing a private social media platform to carry content that is against its policies or preferences,” said NetChoice President Steve DelBianco.